Magic Numbers: How to Find Your Real Bra Size

We are now three weeks into 2018, still safely on the high of New Year, new you. We try new exercise routines and new foods, buy new makeup and try to go a whole month without coffee or alcohol. But what about new underwear?

Last year, I finally got irritated with the ill-fitting, pinching bras I had bought only to feel cute. I sold the ready-to-wear bras I had bought and never worn, dusted off my sewing machine, and learned to make my own. One of the most important parts of sewing your own clothes is knowing your body measurements, and bras are no different. Learning how to properly take measurements on myself and others, I felt like I had cracked Victoria’s Secret. For years, I had been buying bras in a 32B. Really, I am a 34C.

If you’re wearing the wrong bra size, you’re not alone. Upwards of 85 percent of American women go through their day to day life wearing the wrong size bra. That means 264,350,000 women in the United States are wearing itchy, chaffing, pinching, too tight, too loose, digging, downright painful bras. While this may be a small issue for those of us wearing bralettes and newer soft bras, it could cause real health issues for us underwire-wearing gals. Poorly fitting underwires can – of course – cause minor rashes and scratches, but can also block lymph nodes, drainage ducts and muscle spasms. That can make for some particularly sensitive or painful breasts.

So before you jump into that brand new balconette, take a moment to measure yourself. Get a soft tape measure and give yourself ten minutes. A proper measurement – and all day comfort – is exactly three crazy-easy steps away.

*Note: these steps use inches, not centimeters.

Measurement One: Band Measurement

Take your tape measure and wrap it around your rib cage, directly under your breasts. Make sure you’ve exhaled naturally, so your band is supportive as you breathe. Write down that number, rounding up to the nearest inch. If the number is odd, add 5 inches. If the number is even, add 4 inches. This is your band measurement.

Example: My ribcage measures 30” around. 30” + 4” = 34 band.

Measurement Two: Bust Measurements

There are two bust measurements – the high bust and the full bust – which you will need to figure out your cup size. Make sure your tape measure isn’t too loose or too tight while taking these measurements, and be sure to exhale!

Start with the high bust: wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust, right at your armpits. Write this number down.

Next, the full bust: wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your bust, right across your nipples. Write this number down

Measurement Three: Calculate the Cup

Now, we’re going to do some math. Take your full bust number and subtract it from your high bust number. The difference between these two numbers equals a letter size on this chart:

Example: My high bust = 31”; full bust = 34”. 34” – 31” = 3”, which is a C cup.

Now, put your band number and your cup size together!

Some quick tips: If you don’t think you’re getting good measurements on your own, ask help from a friend. Wearing a thin, but supportive bra (think a light bralette, not sports bra) can sometimes improve your measurements. Don’t be afraid to take these measurements a few times to be extra certain, or to visit a professional. Many specialty bra stores, like Soma or a local little shop, will do courtesy measurements before you buy.

Photo credit: 1, 3, 4

*second photo is author’s own